Disclaimer: These are not my characters. The Cullens and their friends belong to Stephenie Meyer, and the "Across the Universe" plot belongs to Julie Taymor, Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures.
Yeah, you've got that something
I think you'll understand
- The Beatles, "I Want To Hold Your Hand"
Alice sighs as she watches her parents drive away, leaving her alone for the evening. These are the nights in which being an only child has its perks, but her plans for the evening will not make them happy.
Those plans, though, are necessary.
Dayton, Ohio is a less than thrilling city. Alice Brandon lives there, and has her entire life. Up until six months ago, her life was normal, expected, perhaps even happy.
Then Royce King happened.
He swooped into Alice's life like a knight on a white horse and she was just as quickly swept into a whirlwind romance. He was everything her parents wanted for her: smart, wealthy, going places. He was handsome; tall, blond with blue eyes that matched the sky on a rainy day, and muscular. Alice, the loner than she was, had somehow managed to make the cheerleading squad, and he played basketball.
For four months, they spent their Fridays with the team and the other cheerleaders, drinking and having a ball down at Turner's Corner. Keg stands and drunk girls were the norm, but when Royce drank, Alice wanted to disappear.
He became someone else entirely.
In three beers, he moved from dapper and debonair to moody and calculating. He became rude and short-tempered. He became a bastard, a wolf in sheep's clothing - a bossy, antagonistic prick.
Alice could handle all of that; she had enough spunk for the two of them and then some. No, it wasn't any of that that made Alice cringe and fold back into herself.
What bothered Alice was the fact that when Royce drank, he became violent.
She had bruises on her arms and back from various rants he'd gone on. She'd told him it was time to go one weekend, and he yanked her arm so roughly that she was left with five distinct, finger-shaped bruises. He'd told her to take her sweater off one night and she'd refused, citing the cold weather, and he'd smacked her in the middle of her back so hard she'd had to take a moment to find her breath.
The next day, she'd had a faint bruise there, beneath the strap of her bra in the center of her back, and it was then she realized she needed to get out from under Royce King's thumb.
First, she went to her mother.
"Mama, Royce hits me when he gets drunk," she'd admitted, fully prepared to fess up to her own drinking. Alice had been utterly floored when her mother had finally responded.
The woman, who had given her slight frame to Alice thanks to genetics, had looked at her and said, simply, "Sometimes that's necessary, dear."
Her mouth fell open as Alice watched her mother's eyes return to the embroidery work that she had been holding when Alice approached her. The woman began to hum to herself and Alice couldn't help but stare, wide-eyed, as she retreated from the room.
That had been six months ago, and from that day forward, Alice had known she had no one to turn to.
A month afterward, she'd broken up with Royce, who had quickly taken up with a girl they'd partied with every weekend, Christina. Alice hadn't even had to tell her parents about the split; the word got around their neighborhood, and by the time Alice returned home from her part time job, her parents were waiting for her at the kitchen table, her father with a stern look upon his face.
"Mary Alice, did you break up with that King boy?" he'd asked.
She nodded. "I did, Daddy. He hit me."
"You probably deserved it, you little twit," he replied.
Alice swallowed his insult without so much as a face, and sat as silent as a stone while they berated her for the end of her relationship.
Finally, when they were done, Alice stood up and looked them both in the eye before speaking. "Once day, you'll wake up, and I'll be gone."
That was all she said before walking quickly from the kitchen, her keels clicking on the linoleum as she made her way to her bedroom.
That was the night this idea had been birthed, and Alice was completely certain that she would follow through with it. Dayton, Ohio had nothing for her. She wanted to be somewhere else…anywhere else.
The lights on her parents' sedan move down the street, and when Alice can no longer see them, she turns on her heel, yanking a bag out from under her bed. For two weeks, she has been packing things away, slowly but surely, so that no one in her home noticed they were missing.
In the bag is $367.87 cash, money she saved from her meager paychecks over the last few months. It also contains a toothbrush, a brand new pair of pajama pants and a few t-shirts to sleep in, fresh socks, a small handknife she stole from her father's dresser, and her old and worn copy of her favorite paperback novels: The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Lord of the Flies.
Alice walks to her closet and pulls a sweater out. It is thick, and wool, and will hopefully provide her enough warmth for this first portion of her journey to…wherever it is she is going. She slips it on over her long sleeved shirt and tugs at her jeans, suddenly nervous.
Alice looks into the mirror and speaks softly to herself. "You can do this. You deserve to get the hell out of here, Alice Brandon."
Silence reigns in the room as she stares at herself. Long, dark hair that hangs down to her elbows frames her face. Her eyes, which are large and hazel-gray, are framed by long, black lashes, and her lips are pressed into a firm line.
She is resolved.
Alice turns on her heel and throws her bag over her shoulder and silently leaves the comfort of her bedroom. She lets the lamp remain on, a sign that she is still up and awake for her parents when they return. She leaves the music playing on her radio, too. It will just be another sign of normalcy to fool her mother and father.
When she steps through the door and onto the porch, the cold air whips around her as she feels distance growing in her heart and mind. She ignores it and continues to move forward, and with every step, she feels a dichotomy of emotions. First, she feels fear – of the unknown, of her intended destination. What if they find her? What if someone more dangerous finds her? But second, she feels an absolute freedom in the knowledge that she intends to allow herself a new identity, a new life. And so, she swallows down the nerves, just like she swallowed her father's insults, and before she knows it, she is standing at the highway three miles from her home, her thumb out as she waits for a ride.
Edward can feel the ship slowing as it approaches land. He's developed an oddly sensitive stomach over the last two weeks, and any change in velocity of the boat seems to affect him vastly. He cannot lie: two weeks at sea had been an arduous thing to undertake, and by day four, he wondered how his father dealt with the constant rocking. A bit of luck – perhaps beginners' – ensured that he never became physically ill, but the constant rocking of the ship made him crave land.
Never before had Edward simply wanted to walk on solid ground.
He makes his way to the top deck, and he can see that the sea – a constant, deep blue for the last few days – is finally being interrupted with a patch of green. Gray. Brown.
New York is dull and gloomy beneath the darkened, mid-day sky, but he is ecstatic to see land. He will be off this god-forsaken boat soon, and it's enough to make him absolutely giddy with excitement.
He watches as the boat approaches the doc. He listens as the captain mumbles over the loudspeaker. He hears the water gushing at the sides of the hull, and then finally, it happens.
He feels the boat slow, and finally stop.
Finally, he has arrived in America, and it takes everything inside his being not to attempt to jump over the side so that he can move. Edward feels a strange sensation to run, to jump, to dance, to do something crazy now that he has arrived, but he stands still, breathing in the new air.
Slowly – painfully slowly – he walks from the ship, and when his feet hit the solid wood of the pier, he almost does a jig out of sheer joy.
He is starving. "Pardon me," he asks a lady walking near him. She looks at him with raised eyebrows, and he finishes, "Can you tell me where I can get some good food 'round here?"
She nods. "There's a shop three blocks from here," she says.
He has landed in Albany, New York, and he is uncertain of how far the trip to Princeton will be, but he has some money. Perhaps that will help him hitch a ride.
But first, he must eat.
The three blocks between the pier and the café go quickly, and soon, Edward is standing in a quaint little restaurant that offers hot soups, salads and sandwiches. They have a to-go menu, but Edward is content to sit and eat his turkey and cheese sandwich at their bar. As he sits, he watches the people around him, happy to see that, really, Americans are no different than Brits.
He begins to hum to himself as he attempts to plan the remainder of his day. He must get to Princeton, New Jersey, but has no idea how far the drive will be. Perhaps he can look up a bus route, because he knows that renting a car is well outside of his means for the night.
One thing is for sure: he cannot afford a hotel, so he must move, and quickly. He hasn't determined where he will stay once he finds his father, but he assumes it will all work out for the best.
"'Scuse me," he says in a respectful tone as the manager of the café walks by. "Can you tell me how long it'll take me to get to Princeton?"
"The school?" the man asks, his British accent clear. Edward was referring to the city, but the school is his final destination, so he does not correct the man. He nods and feels an odd sense of camaraderie with the man who shares his home country. "It's three hours from here, my boy," he finally answers. "I can give you a ride if you'd fancy that."
Edward gives the man a once-over: he appears nice enough, and really, Edward doesn't have many options, so he nods confidently and asks, "Is it alright if I finish me food first?"
The man, who is named Riley, nods in response and says he'll return in a few; he needs to finalize the accounting for the previous business day. Edward eats heartily, his stomach stretching and full by the time Riley returns. "Ready to go, mate?" he asks.
They walk together to Riley's car, which is parked behind the restaurant in a grimy alley, and within three minutes, they're on the road, quiet rock music filtering through the speakers, and Edward finds that he and Riley are seven years apart in age. He also learns that the man is driving just past Princeton to visit his ailing mother, so Edward's appearance at the café was apparently timed perfectly.
They joke about London and Liverpool, make comparisons between the States and the UK – not that Edward has much to say aside from hearsay – and before he knows it, Edward watches as the sign for the University glides by him.
"Well, chap, here you are," Riley begins, "I'll drop you here." He finds a pen in his pocket and a scrap of paper, writing down a number before shoving the paper at Edward. "If you're ever in a bind, mate…"
Edward eyes the paper. He has no intention of staying in the States for any extended period of time, but having someone to be able to call on sounds like a good idea. "Thanks, mate," he says, and then grabs his solitary bag and steps out of the car.
He watches as the black car moves away from him and it is with a sense of purpose and destiny that he turns around and takes his first steps onto the Princeton campus.
The car that picks Alice up is weathered, to be sure, but the lady driving seems nice enough. She wears a long, floral skirt and a sheer top – lace with embroidery. Her hair is parted down the center of her head and her long, nearly black waves fall to her waist. "Carmen's the name, shug," she says. "What do they call you?"
Mary Alice Brandon looks at the woman – clearly Bohemian in her way of life – and smiles as the car heads out of town. "Alice," she replies, "just Alice." She never liked her first name anyway.
Carmen drives them out of Dayton. She drives them out of Ohio. She drives them until they reach a small town in the middle of nowhere, and by that time, Alice has learned that Carmen is on her way to the Village in New York City, where she will teach a Philosophy class at a small college. Carmen has imparted such wisdom on Alice, and she feels filled to the brim with peaceful thoughts, with hippie ideals, and when they reach that small town, Alice calls out, "Wait! Stop here!"
Carmen nods, pulls off of the highway and into the parking lot of Tina's Hair, a salon with two stylists working. Alice smiles as she holds up a finger to Carmen and walks inside.
"What can I do for you, hon," the stylist asks over her lunch.
"I want you to cut it," Alice replies.
The lady nods. "How much?"
"All of it," answers Alice. "Leave me with a few inches. I want the rest gone."
The stylist shrugs, gestures toward a chair, and Alice takes a seat. The smock is around her shoulders and before she can think twice, clumps of her long, dark hair are on the floor around her.
She closes her eyes as the lady cuts her hair. She never asks for a name or anything, and when the scissors stop and Alice opens her eyes, a different girl looks back at her in the mirror.
Her hair is short and crazy, forming a halo of wispy locks around her face, and she is immediately in love with it.
"Thank you," she breathes, and as she hands a ten to the girl and stands, it feels as though she is twenty pounds lighter.
When she returns to the car to Carmen, who squeals with Alice over her new look, they agree to head to the City together, and before too long the windows are down and they are singing along to the Rolling Stones at the top of their lungs as the miles go by.
With her new haircut, it is official: Mary is gone; Alice is here to stay.
It's approximately 3:30 and Edward has no clue where to go.
He's standing in the middle of a crosswalk, gauging how best to look for his father. After entertaining a million thoughts, he finally decides to look for the main administrative offices and begin there. Just as he takes his first step, though, a tall, blond student runs into him, and Edward's bag and the student's books and papers go flying, scattering all over the lawn.
"Aw, damn," the blond says. "Shit."
"I'm sorry," Edward mumbles.
Blondie shrugs. "Eh, it's alright. You look lost." He's gathered his texts, but it appears that his papers are a lost cause.
"I am, I suppose. Can you tell me if there's a Professor Wesley around?" It's the first time he's said his biological father's name aloud to anyone except his mother, and the last name sounds strange, unfitting.
"Wesley…um," the blond scratches at his chin and smiles. "No, he's not a professor. He's a groundskeeper. That's him, there," he says, pointing. "I gotta run. Good luck."
Edward hardly has time to mumble a goodbye before the blond is gone, and he turns over his shoulder to meet the man for which he has traveled so many miles.
He walks in silence to the man – his father – who is atop a ladder, fixing a light. "Hello, there," he calls out, finally, in a voice that is paper thin.
The man looks back at Edward with familiar features; it is only a glance, but Edward sees himself in the man's face, and he is an older version of the man in the picture he took when he left home. "What can I do for you?" Edward Wesley replies.
"Well, I believe I'm your son," Edward manages, and watches as the man freezes, his hand in midair.
"Elizabeth Masen is me mother," Edward says, his voice stronger.
At this, his father drops the bulb in his hand and it falls to the cush grass beneath his ladder, forgotten momentarily. "I…we should…ah, follow me, please."
Edward watches him pick up the bulb and fold the ladder. He places it on the ground, leaning against the wall, and nods to his right. The two men walk down a corridor in absolute silence, and Edward follows his father into a small room, where he sits down in a chair and promptly pulls out a flask.
He sips and holds it out to Edward. As the younger man shakes his head, he shrugs and finally says, "What do you want? Why didn't she tell me? I would've…" His face is worried, and then angry, and finally makes its way back to worried, showing that he's rather bothered by this turn of events.
But Edward cuts him off. "What? Come back to England to be the father to your bastard child? She knew better."
"Do you want money? Does she need help?" His father seems flustered, and Jude snorts.
"No. Me mum's fantastic. She took care of me when the neighborhood looked down on her for having a bastard son. It was okay, you know, because I was a product of the war, and all the Americans who'd settled in Liverpool." The bitterness seeps into Edward's tone and quickly, he stifles it, hoping he can remain calm for the duration of this conversation.
His father is confused. "Then…why are you here?"
Edward thinks for a moment, trying to verbalize his feelings on the matter accurately. His lips part and close twice before he says, "I'm not here to derail your life. I'm not here for your love or approval. I'm just here so that we both know the other exists."
The older man stares at him for a full minute before he quietly asks, "Do you need a place to stay?"
Edward smiles tentatively in appreciation, and the older man points him in the direction of an adjoining room. A cot is there, and a pillow, and he tells Edward he can stay for a few days if he wants or needs to.
An odd current fills the rest of their conversation as the two men fill the next hour or so with questions for each other. Edward Senior wants to know how Elizabeth has been through the years. When Edward Junior answers honestly, citing the rough patches - that she's been alone because being a single mother doesn't quite make you appealing - he believes he sees regret course through the elder man's eyes.
It is silent for a beat before either of them speaks again. "Edward, I loved your mother," his father says as he gazes at the photo his son brought with him on his voyage. "I truly did, but I couldn't see how we…and then, I didn't know…" His eyes lift to meet his son's and he says, "But I'm glad I do now."
Soon after, the man must return home to his wife, and they share an awkward hug goodbye. After watching him walk away, Edward fingers the flask his father has left with him. He sips the liquid inside it – brandy, and high quality at that – and flops himself onto the cot. Hours pass while he drains the liquor and it is nightfall when he steps outside again to smoke a cigarette.
AN: Sorry for being super-fail about this update. I had to move (at the last minute) and also, I'll fess up here: I actually write as another author here on FanFiction(dot)net, and I have several WIPs at the moment, one of which stole my attention.
I will be working on this diligently, to get you updates regularly.
Also, an FYI: I'm following the movie for this fic rather closely. The chapters are broken up the way the movie was, so if you go watch AtU right now, you'll see that these events – at least the ones that were in the movie (I'm making Alice Prudence, sans her being a lesbian, so I had to change her story up a bit) – happened during the song used for the title of this chapter. And, when applicable, I'll be using key quotes. That's exactly what Jude said to his dad when he finally found him. I'm a nerd, I know.
Thanks for your patience. I'll update soon.